Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

The Sub-government

The Sub-Government
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 21, 2019, p. A7

We worry where our country and world are headed. We rely on the media’s tweet trackers to tell us what’s next. It’s rumored our president wants to buy Greenland before it melts.

Our presidential campaign is being waged on teens’ screens of social media. Russia is fighting a war without bombs on the world’s democracies, including our own, and winning. Manipulation of emotions of anger, fear and hate can destroy democracies with escalating divisiveness from within, regardless of elections’ outcomes.

Meanwhile, much of the self-inflicted damage from Washington transpires beneath the radar – in good times and bad. Why? Campaign contributions; yes. But there’s more. Not the conspiracy theory of a “dark state” undermining the president. It’s what I call the “subgovernment phenomenon,” out in the open but unreported by the media, whether in Washington, Des Moines or Iowa City. [Photo Credit Common Dreams ("Ahead of a crucial vote . . . defenders of net neutrality . . . projected . . . 'Property of Verizon' on the [FCC's] building to draw attention to the corporate interests at play . . ..")]

On Saturday, August 24, 4:00 p.m., there will be a discussion of these issues at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., in the course of a hopeful and sometimes humorous reading from Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking. Hope to see you there.
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Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Marianne Williamson’s Questions and Answers

Reading from latest book, #CatfishSolution, next Saturday, Aug. 24, #IowaCity's #PrairieLights, 4-5PM. Hope to see you there.
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Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5

Where the column as submitted differs from the column as published the submission is indicated in [brackets] and italics.

Marianne Williamson may not have “the answer.” But she’s the only one who has framed the right questions [– the essential first step to finding answers.] Whether or not that qualifies her to be president, it clearly qualifies her to be a [Democratic Party] campaign strategist. Those who trivialize and mock her do so at their party’s and America's peril.

Here are the questions: "What strategy is President Donald Trump using?" and "What strategy does that require of Democrats?" [One might modify Williamson’s answers, but she's correctly answered the first question and pointed us in the right direction on the second.]

At the June 27 Democratic Debates, she warned the Party that plans are not enough: “Donald Trump … didn’t win by saying he had a plan."

She doesn’t advocate abandoning 20th Century political strategies. Democratic Party candidates still need to meet party members who now stay home or vote Republican – especially the ones living in the 80 percent of American counties that Trump carried in 2016. The candidates must show up, really listen to voters’ challenges and needs, and propose plans that at least outline solutions.
[Photo credit: By Supearnesh - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80914139]

But Williamson closed that Debate by posing and answering the first question: "Donald Trump is not going … to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He is going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea what this man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes."

She’s right about that. Trump won, and may win again, by personally utilizing the same strategy in speech [and tweet] that he and the Russians use in their social media campaigns.

Trump may or may not believe in climate-change science, but he sure believes in the neurological science of the amygdalae, limbic cortex and brain stem, some of the most phylogenetically primitive regions of the brain. He believes in the science of reward and addiction that increase smart phone, videogame and slot machine players’ TOD (time on device); advertisers manipulating consumers into buying things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like; gaslighting, social psychology’s findings regarding groups’ influence on individuals; and the science behind propaganda [and the big lie.]
[Photo credit: public domain, http://lbc.nimh.nih.gov/images/brain.jpg (found on page http://lbc.nimh.nih.gov/osites.html).]

In short, he understands the role of fear, anger and hatred of "the other" [in successful campaigns.] He knows the [2020] presidential election will be won more by targeting the most primitive regions of the brains of [140 million or more] voters than by what’s aimed at their cerebral cortices.

So, "What strategy does that require of Democrats?"

Williamson says, "I have had a career harnessing the inspiration and the motivation and the excitement of people." And in her closing statement said that Trump has "harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. . . . I’m going to harness love for political purposes."

Her use of the word “love,” with its romantic associations, was neither a precise nor helpful choice in this political context. The Greco-Christian term “agape” would have been only marginally better.

The challenge is much more complex. Trump is strategically increasing the emotions of hate and fear. [In this contest on a playing field in the most primitive regions of Americans’ brains,] what can Democrats do to excite even greater emotional responses involving compassion, empathy, and feelings of community [necessary to our “more perfect union”]?

Marianne Williamson’s questions are a major contribution that deserves understanding and appreciation. Now it’s up to Democrats’ candidates to craft and apply the answers.
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Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and three-time presidential appointee; his latest book is "Columns of Democracy." [Nicholas Johnson, a native Iowan and former FCC commissioner, will be doing a reading from his latest book, Catfish Solution, at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights, Aug. 24, 4:00-5:00. Contact:: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org]

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ever-Timely Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie Night at Uptown Bill's

Today would have been Woody Guthrie's 107th birthday (July 14, 1912-October 3, 1967). We celebrate that each year at Uptown Bill's on the closest Saturday Night Concert to his birthday, which this year was last night.

Because during the course of his life Woody wrote "over 1000 songs" it was not possible to perform and group-sing all of them. The selection was limited to what would fit in the two hours allotted for the nostalgic concert.

What was especially moving this year was the realization that at the same time we were singing about the suffering Woody was writing and singing about in the 1940s, the suffering is still playing out along our southern border and for the poor throughout our country (think "Deportee," "Hobo's Lullaby").
As author Stephen King put it in a Tweet today: "First, you stoke hatred and fear of minorities. Then you round them up and put them in camps. Next, you send out rading parties to get those who have been driven into hiding. The armbands come next, right?"
You've heard -- and probably sung -- Woody's "Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos)," written in 1948. But now read the words of "Deportee" and think about President Trump's politics of anti-immigrant, anti-other, and what he has ordered should begin today, July 14, 2019.

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning, The oranges piled in their creosote dumps; They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border To pay all their money to wade back again

Chorus: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria; You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane, All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river, They took all the money he made in his life; My brothers and sisters they working the old church, They rode the big truck still lay down and died [Chorus]

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon, A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills, Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves? The radio says, "They are just deportees" [Chorus]
This is what it sounded like when Woody sang it:




A few of the members of the Family Folk Machine performed. From left (stage right) to right: Kevin Kaufman (harmonica); Lynn Partridge; Claire Sauder; Jean Littleton, Director; and Wendy Levy.

Here is a clip from Lynn Partridge's performance of Woody's "Pastures of Plenty" (1941) [full lyrics below].



It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road Out of your Dust Bowl and westward we rolled And your deserts were hot and your mountain was cold

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes Slept on the ground in the light of your moon On the edge of the city you'll see us and then We come with the dust and we go with the wind

California and Arizona, I make all your crops And its North up to Oregon to gather your hops Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down Every state in this Union us migrants have been We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win

Well, it's always we rambled, that river and I All along your green valley, I will work till I die My land I'll defend with my life if it be 'Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free
The two principal organizers of the evening's event were Jeffrey Morgan and Joe Brisben. Here's a clip from their performance of Woody's "Hobo's Lullaby" (1944) [full lyrics below]. (I recall during the late 1930s, when I was a child, hobos knocking on the kitchen door asking for food. Mother would always offer them something to eat.)

Go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's the hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

Do not think 'bout tomorrow Let tomorrow come and go Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar Safe from all that wind and snow

I know the police cause you trouble They cause trouble everywhere But when you die and go to Heaven You'll find no policemen there

So go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's a hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And the finale? "This Land is Your Land" (1940), of course. Here's a clip; no lyrics below because you know them and can sing along with us. (You don't? OK, click HERE.)



It was a great night. I hope you can join us next year for this and other great Saturday evening concerts. Uptown Bill's offers a laid-back comfort similar to a gathering with friends and neighbors in your own living room, folks who have come to listen to, rather than talk over, the musicians; and musicians who don't mind (even encourage) you to sing along if you feel like it.


[NOTE:
Uptown Bill's has performance rights for these songs. The event last evening, and this blog post, are intended as a tribute to Woody Guthrie, one of America's 19th Century greatest figures as well as musicians. No compensation has been or will be received for posting it. The brief video clips are not intended as, and are not, a substitute for access to the body of his work. If anything it may have a minimal impact on encouraging visitors to visit other sources. The lyrics, and Woody Guthrie's performance of "Deportee," are openly available and unprotected on the Internet. Given the lack of economic impact, the use of the material in a historic and commentary context, and the limited portion (of 1000 songs) used, it may very well be "fair use." However, if any copyright owner objects to this use a simple email to mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org specifying the specific, protected material sought to be removed will result it its removal.]

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dems Presidential Primary - Polls July 11, 2019

11 Between 1% and 26%; 10 Never Over 1%; Top 6 in Iowa

Iowa's Top 6; Poll June 29-July 4, 2019
Buttigieg 25%
Warren 18%
Sanders 16%
Biden 16%
Harris 16%
O'Rourke 2%
All others 0-1%

National Results

[Source: Wikimedia.org; graphic display of data from 2008 election]

10 candidates with poll numbers 0%-1%; All Polls June 1-July 9
[In addition, for all but Gillibrand and Delaney these candidates have been in the 0% to 1% range in every poll since November 2018.]
Bennet, Bullock, De Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Moulton, Ryan, Williamson

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; their range for July

Biden 18-31%
Sanders 10-23%
Warren 9-22%
Harris 10-21%
Buttigieg 3-10%
O'Rourke 2-4%
Castro 0-4%
Yang 0-3%
Booker 0-2%
Klobuchar 0-2%
Gabbard 0-2%

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; average (mean) of last three polls

Biden 26%
Warren 17%
Harris 14%
Sanders 13%
Buttigieg 5.7%
O'Rourke 2.7%
Yang 2%
Gabbard 1.3%
Booker 1.3%
Klobuchar 1%
Castro 1%

Getting into the weeds of the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll

Later in the day, after this blog was posted, the results of a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll were released. Its biggest contribution was not the predictable revelation that Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders and Buttigieg still lead the pack.

It was the details -- such as the data indicating 82% of primary voters are "very" or "somewhat" closely following the candidates; only 12% of Democratic voters say they have "definately" made up their minds; and their answer to "Who is your second choice?" The answers? Harris (14%), Warren (13%), Sanders (12%) and Biden (10%).

The poll also dug into how voters' candidate preference varied between those "who want large-scale change" (Warren, 29%; Sanders, 18%; Biden, 16%; and Harris, 14%), those "who want small-scale change" (Biden, 35%; Harris, 14%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 7%), those who think issues most important (51%; Biden, 18%; Warren, 18%; Sanders, 17%; and Harris, 11%), those who think defeating Trump is most important (45%; Biden, 34%; Warren, 21%; Harris, 16%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 6%).

Commentary
(1) There's still time. The fact your candidate hasn't yet become the flavor of the month doesn't mean it can't happen. If past primaries and elections are any guide there will continue to be a lot of changes in the rankings between now and the Iowa caucuses in February 2020. Note the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finding, immediately above, that only 12% of primary voters have now settled on whom they're supporting.

(2) Polls vary widely depending upon such things as the quality and reputation of the polling firm, the number of people polled, the way questions are framed, recent news coverage of the candidates and related events, and how closely the public is following the process.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Everybody Gets an Office

Everybody Gets an Office, Even the Losers

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, July 7, p. D2

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. ("Why Trump May Win,” May 29, 2019). One of the 13 was on display at The Gazette/Iowa Public Radio’s June 20 Pints & Politics: Why 23 outstanding, qualified candidates are as much curse as blessing. Ben Kieffer asked the 150 politically savvy attendees to applaud if they’d picked their candidate. Only one did. Everyone else clapped for “haven’t picked one.” Two debate nights later many remain undecided. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson, Pints & Politics audience, Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City, June 20, 2019.]

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win, they will offer an appropriate, important position in their administration to each of the 22 former candidates who want one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They can all have offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City
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Everybody Gets an Office

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 26, 2019, p. A7

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. See “Why Trump May Win.” One of the 13 was on display at a recent local gathering of 150 politically savvy folks: Having 23 outstanding, qualified candidates is as much curse as blessing. The host asked the group to applaud if they had picked their candidate. Only one person responded. Everyone else clapped when asked if they “hadn’t yet picked one.”

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win they will offer to each of the other 22 an important administration position (for which they are qualified) to every former candidate who wants one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They all get offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Making a Greater Greta World

Schoolchildren around the world are trying to get our attention -- and action -- regarding the numerous crises we confront. One of the most dramatic examples is what Greta Thunberg has accomplished. The first video -- 4:22 minutes -- is her appeal to the EU. The second -- 33:46 minutes -- reports on her global movement. You may have already seen these videos; but if not you will soon agree they are "must viewing." [Photo: Wikimedia Commons; Austrian World Climate Summit, May 2019, Wien Copyright: Eugénie Berger.]





Friday, June 14, 2019

Presidential Qualities from Elvis to Lyndon

Related columns and blog posts:
"Why Trump May Win," May 29, 2019 [embedded: "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6]

"May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District," May 4, 2019

"Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019," May 2, 2019

"Democrats Qualified for Debates," April 29, 2019

"Presidential Experience," April 28, 2019 [embedded: "Democrats in 2020 Should Value Experienced Candidate," The Gazette, April 28, 2019, p. D3]

"Impeachment and the Mueller Report," April 22, 2019

"Presidential Candidates' Rankings and Experience," April 15, 2019

What to Look for in 20-plus Democratic Presidential Candidates
and How Are They Doing As Of Today?

Those of us Iowa Democrats who have yet to pick our final candidate of choice are thankful we still have some time to make up our minds before the precinct caucuses February 3, 2020 -- with New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22), and South Carolina (Feb. 29) watching and close behind.

What to look for?

(1) Winner. Top qualification for most Democrats is a winner, someone who can beat President Donald Trump. If you'd like a little pep-me-up, here's the latest: "Top Dems Lead Trump In Head-To-Head Matchups, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Democratic Primary Race Narrows As Biden Goes Flat," Quinnipiac Poll, June 11, 2019. Six Democrats could, today, beat Trump: Biden (53 to 40%, 13 points), Sanders (51 to 42%, 9 points), Harris (49 to 41%, 8 points), Warren (49 to 42%, 7 points), Buttigieg and Booker both 47 to 42%, 5 points).

Sadly, it won't be that easy -- whatever matchup polls show. For 13 categories of reasons why, see Nicholas Johnson, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6 (in the blog post, "Why Trump May Win"). Moreover, even the Quinnipiac details are concerning. For men (47% Biden, 46% Trump) and white voters (46% Biden, 47% Trump) it's a tossup.

(2) Elvis. Louis Armstrong, when asked to define "jazz" is reported to have replied, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." So it is with your candidate having "Elvis." Your candidate either has it or s/he doesn't. At a minimum we want a candidate who will offer us a presidency we will not be afraid, embarrassed, or bored to watch. [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; Tupelo, Mississippi, 1956.]

(3) Policies. To what extent are you and the candidate in agreement about the most important issues, policy positions on those issues, and areas of possible compromise?

(4) Lyndon. President Lyndon Johnson's biographer, Robert A. Caro, titled one of the books in his The Years of Lyndon Johnson series, Master of the Senate because of Johnson's never-equaled capacity to persuade. How effective will your candidate be when functioning as president? They are going to need a measure of "Lyndon" as well as "Elvis." How much support do they already have within the U.S. House and Senate to help pass the legislation you and they want? How effective will they be in rallying the American public behind those proposals? What experience have they had managing very large organizations? Do they work well with staff members? How many qualified acquaintances do they have who could fill the 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointee? What is their understanding of the military, or international organizations and relationships? [President Johnson in Oval Office with West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Photo on display at West Virginia History On View.]

So How Are They Doing So Far?

(1) Debates. As of June 12 there were 14 candidates who met the Party's requirement for debate participation under both criteria: (a) polls (3 in which they were chosen by 1% or more), and (b) donors (65,000 with 200 or more in 20 states). They were Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Inslee, Klobucher, O'Rourke, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, and Yang. Six met only the polls standard: Bennet, de Blasio, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan and Swalwell.

Eight have attracted the support of 2% or more: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, O'Rourke, Booker and Klobuchar.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley, "The First Democratic Debate Deadline Is Almost Here: Who’s In And Who’s Out," FiveThirtyEight, June 12, 2019.
"Who's on First?" (June 26 and June 27)

The first debates will be held on June 26 and 27 in Miami, from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Central Time, televised on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo with their moderators NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow, and Noticias Telemundo and NBC Nightly News Saturday anchor José Díaz-Balart There are 20 participants; 10 each night. They are said to have been selected at random, drawing folded paper slips from two categories: those in the top tier and all the others. The results?

June 26: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan and Elizabeth Warren.

June 27: Michael Bennet, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Johyn Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Source: For more, including photos of all 20, see Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Matt Stevens, "The Democratic Debate lineups Are Set. Here's What to Expect," New York Times, June 14, 2019, p. A1.

(2) Endorsements. FiveThirtyEight has a point scale for measuring the weight of a candidate's endorsements: 10 points for former presidents, vice presidents and current national Democratic Party leaders; 8 points for governors; 6 points for U.S. senators; with lesser points for lesser office holders. Thus, a candidate's comparative "endorsement points" takes on meaning as a measure of his or her support from the Party's "establishment" -- an "honor" that some voters would view with suspicion rather than follow blindly. Here, then, for what it's worth is the current "endorsement points" ranking:
Biden - 94
Booker and Harris - 57
Klobucher - 39
Warren - 25
Sanders - 22
O'Rourke - 15
Buttigieg and Castro - 12
Bullock - 8
Delaney - 6
Inslee - 5
Gillibrand, Hickenlooper and Swalwell - 3
Source: "The 2020 Endorsement Primary," FiveThirtyEight, June 9, 2019.

(3) Likability. During one of the 2016 presidential primary debates between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Obama took the opportunity to reassure Clinton, whose "likability" had been questioned, that she was "likable enough."

Is your candidate "likable enough"?

Nate Silver has offered an engaging chart of candidates' various favorability rankings by Iowans; for example, the percentage of those polled who view the candidate "very favorably," "mostly favorably," "mostly unfavorably," and "very unfavorably." From these percentages he calculates the candidate's "favorability score." He also reports the percentage of those polled for whom the candidate is their first choice. He uses data from the Selzer Iowa poll, June 2-5, 2019.

Here are some numbers for the top 8: Buttigieg (4.1), Harris (4.0), Warren (4.0), Biden (3.8), Sanders (3.7), Booker (3.7), Klobuchar (3.6) and O'Rourke (3.6) -- ranked by their Nate Silver "favorability scores" in that order.

Five candidates are the "first choice" of percentages of voters greater than 2%: Biden (24%), Sanders (16%), Warren (15%), Buttigieg (14%) and Harris (7%).

Five candidates have "very favorable" percentages of 30% or more: Warren (37%), Biden (36%), Buttigieg and Sanders (both 32%) and Harris (30%). Combining the "very favorable" and "mostly favorable" percentages, those with a total of 60% or more are: Biden (73%), Warren (71%), Sanders (70%), Harris (63%) and Buttigieg (61%).

The three candidates with the highest (worst) "very unfavorable" percentages are de Blasio (13%), Biden (9%) and Sanders (8%). Combining the "mostly unfavorable" and "very unfavorable" percentages for those over 20% the highest (worst) are: de Blasio (40%), Sanders (25%), Biden (23%), Gillibrand (23%), O'Rourke (21%) and Gabbard (20%). The two best (lowest percentage total unfavorable) among those who were the "first choice" of 2% or more are: Buttigieg (12%) and Harris (13%) (the rest were upper teens and twenties).

If you would like to explore these numbers for all 23 candidates my source is: Nate Silver, "Silver Bulletpoints: Iowans Seem To Like Warren And Buttigieg," June 13, 2019

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